‘The Wrestler’ Puts a Chokehold on Beverly Hills

Brace yourselves; you’re about to see a lot more of Mickey Rourke than you have in recent years.

Rourke’s new film, The Wrestler, had its premiere at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, Tuesday night. From the looks of things, it could spark a dramatic comeback for the 52-year-old actor.

The film—which opens in New York and Los Angeles today, and in theaters nationwide on January 23—has been garnering critical kudos for Rourke, who plays retired wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson.  Check out a preview:

On hand to usher in Rourke’s renaissance at the premiere were co-stars Evan Rachel Wood and Marisa Tomei, along with director Darren Aranofsky (Requiem for a Dream), actor/musician Jared Leto,  Rachel Weisz, rapper Curtis50 CentJackson, and conspiracy-minded auteur Oliver Stone.

Rourke—who looked resplendent as always in leather pants, gold vest, blazer and sunglasses—told reporters that he’s fully ready to capitalize on his cinematic second chance. “I’ve got to keep in mind where I came from, and I don’t want to go back there,” Rourke said. “I gotta stay on my game, move forward and live my life the right way.”

Director Aranofsky, meanwhile, hopes to bring a touch of legitimacy to a sport that hasn’t been taken terribly seriously. “Most people sort of write off wrestling as a joke,” Aranofsky conceded.

Funny he should mention that; up until recently, the same thing could have been said of his film’s star.